The ears are delicate organs that have many purposes in the body, as they serve to hear but also balance, filter and release excess pressure from the inner ear. Earwax is a natural substance produced by glands in your ear canal that helps keep your ears healthy. However, when too much earwax builds up and hardens, it can make hearing difficult or impossible. This article will go over what causes earwax buildup and how you can prevent it from happening in the future.
What is Earwax?
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a substance produced naturally by glands in your ear canal. It’s not dirt or debris and is entirely normal to have. The function of earwax is to protect the external auditory canal skin from bacteria, fungi and water loss. Earwax also helps trap dust and particles that may enter your ear from the wind.
What Causes Earwax Buildup?
Earwax build-up occurs when earwax is not removed from the ear canal. Excess water and sweat in the ears can cause the wax to collect and harden, sometimes leading to hearing loss. While everyone has some earwax, some people naturally have more than others. For example, people who live in dry environments may experience less buildup because they are not exposed to as much moisture as those in humid areas.
The Problems with Too Much Earwax
If you have too much earwax in your ears, it can clog up the canal. This can make hearing difficult, especially if the wax is impacted deep within the canal. And while some people may experience temporary hearing loss due to earwax buildup, others may experience permanent hearing loss.
Too much earwax might also cause a ringing in your ear. In addition, excessive earwax buildup can cause your hearing to be blocked or muffled. Luckily, you can do a few things to manage the problem.
How to Prevent Earwax Buildup
The best way to prevent earwax buildup is by managing your symptoms as soon as you notice them. One of the most important ways to reduce earwax buildup is to keep your ears clean. After all, if you don’t regularly remove the wax from your ears, it will eventually harden and build up in the canal. All you need to do is pour a few drops of warm water or ear-cleaning solution into your ear canal and use a cotton swab or medical-grade paper towel to clean out any excess wax.
You should do this once daily or every other day, depending on your habits and tolerance for cleaning your ears. Another method that can prevent earwax buildup is using a non-invasive vacuum cleaner – these work by safely removing excess wax without having to put anything inside your ear canal.
Though it can be tempting to try this method on your own without consulting an audiologist first, make sure not to put anything inside your ears besides cotton swabs without being supervised by an audiologist, who knows what they’re doing! Otherwise, you may push pieces of wax further into the ears and cause more harm than good.
You also want to avoid pushing too hard when getting rid of excess wax in your ears because doing so can lead to painful ruptures in the eardrum. The best way is just to use gentle pressure on the outside of the ear with a dry cloth.
How Can You Maintain Healthy Hearing?
There are many things you can do to maintain healthy hearing. Here are a few that can help:
- If you wear hearing aids, keep your hearing aids clean. Take the time to do this at least once a week but be sure to consult your doctor first.
- Use earplugs when you go swimming or if you are exposed to loud noises regularly.
- Avoid sleeping on your side because it will put pressure on your ear and keep the eardrum from drying out.
Earwax is a natural and often helpful substance found in the ear canal. It helps keep the ear canal clean and protects the skin of the ear canal from infection. Typically, the wax moves through the ear canal and out of the ear on its own.
The accumulation of earwax can cause hearing loss, tinnitus and drainage. People who have these symptoms should see an audiologist to determine if they have too much wax buildup. If so, audiologists may recommend an earwax softening solution or a home remedy like putting baby oil in the ears to melt the wax.
They may also recommend certain types of hearing aids for certain types of hearing loss, such as in-the-ear (ITE), behind-the-ear (BTE) or in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids. If you want to take action to combat hearing loss, you can find out more from the Norriton Hearing Center and by calling us today at (610) 273-6077.